That’s all fair enough, she is entitled to her opinion but, as these things are want to do, it got me thinking. My novels are clichéd, that’s the whole point of them. They are written for entertainment, pure and simple. If we take the much quoted maxim that there are really only 7 stories in the world then in my world there’s probably just the one and I keep retelling it. The crux of the matter for me being do I tell it well?
I write the kind of stories that I like to read and, for those escapism moments, I don’t want to read gritty realism or challenging literature that makes me think but drains the life out of me. All of these things have a place but it’s not while I am trying to unwind with my mug of cocoa. I write for a specific audience then, namely me. Obviously if someone else reads them and enjoys them as well it’s all to the good.
The truth is I write for the pleasure that it affords me. I would write, like most people who enjoy writing, whether there was the opportunity for publishing or not. The only novel I submitted, unsuccessfully, for the scrutiny of agents was my first one, Business
As Usual. I found the whole thing so time consuming and demoralising, it threatened to tarnish my writing pleasure and consequently I decided to not bother with any of my subsequent novels. Self-publishing involves very little scope for rejection, readers either download the books or they don’t.
Obviously once they have engaged with you as a writer and chosen your work, they then become part of the dynamic.
Hopefully your work will inspire something positive but there’s always the risk that it won’t. When you put your work out there, in whatever form, you are basically asking readers what they think and you can’t then complain if you don’t get the response that you’d hoped for. There has recently sprung up lots of petty online squabbles between writers and readers, which are ridiculous. You can not invite someone to read your book and then attack them for expressing their opinion on it.
That’s the beauty of literature; everybody brings something different to the table. The only criteria I had when I was creating my characters was that they would be people who I would like and want to be friends with. As with all things in life, however, we all have different tastes and one person’s friend is another person’s foe. The characters I hold dear could be thoroughly loathsome to some people. Georgie Connelly, the lead character in three of my novels, is blundering and foul mouthed, riding roughshod over everyone she meets. None the less, she has a good heart and that, in my book, is enough to forgive anybody anything. But that’s me; others of course are free to disagree.
In an ideal world we would take criticism on the chin and learn from it. Nobody writes the perfect book and I am
very much aware of the faults in my own. Other people’s evenly expressed opinions can, if we let them, inspire us and move us along as writers. That’s not to say that hearing our failings pointed out to us doesn’t sting. We are all sensitive and thin skinned where our creations are concerned and anyone who says otherwise is a liar. It’s really hard sometimes to listen to criticism but if we want to develop then we have to bite the bullet and face the truth no matter how harsh it may seem. Constant praise is meaningless and, in the end detrimental, as it leaves us with nowhere to go but treading water in the illusion that we have somehow arrived but arrived where?
The minute we put pen to paper we are putting our hearts on the line. We are inviting a relationship with whoever may decide to read our words. Like all relationships we need to remember, honesty, kindness and respect and I don’t think we can go far wrong. I for one love the idea that my writing can mean something completely different for the reader than it does for me but in accepting that I have to also accept that they might not like what they read.